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News Release


Thursday, June 23, 2005

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch criticized the federal Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro for failing to mention any ethics rules in his ruling on the immigration process situation involving Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal.  The investigation into Grewal's action of requiring immigration applicants to post a bond with his office was undertaken in response to a request by Liberal Cabinet Minister Joe Volpe.

The Commissioner is clearly failing to fulfill his legal duties when he issues rulings that do not make clear which rule in the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (the MPs Code) was violated.  The Commissioner only found that Grewal's actions placed him "in an apparent conflict of interest" and that he "has not fully complied with an obligation under the [MPs] Code" and that Grewal's actions "were an error in judgment made in good faith."

The Commissioner did not mention at all the following MPs Code rules that clearly apply to the Grewal situation, and require MPs "to fulfill their public duties with honesty and uphold the highest standards" (subsection 2(b)) and "to perform their official duties and functions and arrange their private affairs in a manner that bears the closest public scrutiny" (subsection 2(c)) and not to "accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law." (subsection 14(1)).

In his first ruling on the situation involving Cabinet minister Judy Sgro (released on June 21st), the Commissioner also failed to fulfill his legal duties when he found only Sgro (and not her staff) guilty of violating only one ethics rule, even though several ethics rules clearly applied to her and her staffs' actions.

The rules established through decades of court decisions are clear -- a person in an administrative tribunal position like the Ethics Commissioner must make rulings that examine the facts of the situation, review the specific rules that apply to the situation, and apply the rules to the situation.

"Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro has shown clearly he doesn't know how to make legally valid rulings that apply rules to situations and make clear which rules have been violated," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.  "If the Ethics Commissioner has any integrity he will acknowledge that he lacks the expertise to be Ethics Commissioner and resign."

Also today, the Ethics Commissioner testified at a hearing of the House of Commons Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics examining the Commissioner's ruling in the Sgro affair.  Subsection 72.05(4) of the Parliament of Canada Act states clearly that the Committee has no "jurisdiction" over the Commissioner's actions concerning public office holders such as Sgro.  It is also legally improper for an administrative decision-maker like the Commissioner to comment on a ruling.

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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179

To see a Democracy Watch op-ed about the biased, flawed operations of the federal Ethics Commissioner, click here

Ethics Commissioner's ruling on Grewal situation - http://www.parl.gc.ca/oec-bce/site/pages/ReportG_EN1_web.pdf

Parliament of Canada Act - http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/3/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/government/C-4/C-4_4/90225bE.html#4

Democracy Watch's Government Ethics Campaign

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